Book Talk: A Girl Named Zippy

by Kelsey Norwood

in Making Good

a girl named zippy haven kimmel
I grew up in a small town in Oregon (population 1500 so bigger than her town of 300), so I could really relate to A Girl Named Zippy, by Haven Kimmel. I loved every page of this book, which I was not expecting. I am not big on nonfiction, and I don’t think I’ve ever read a memoir all the way through before. This book read like fiction and I loved it!

This book really made me think, another thing I wasn’t expecting. I was impressed with Zippy’s mom – not the part about her reading on the couch all day long but how she treated Zippy like a regular person whose feelings and opinions she respected, no matter how childish or wild they might seem. Zippy’s mom really instilled in her the confidence to think for herself and to be authentic.

I loved this passage: “Ants scurried back and forth across the sidewalk in what appeared to be a prescribed route. I had yet to hear a satisfactory explanation about why ants carried their dead right back into the ant village and down the ant hole, but that’s what some of them were doing as I watched. My mom had suggested to me that if I didn’t know the scientific answer for something, I should choose the most obvious explanation. And the obvious explanation for why the ants healed their dead back home was, clearly, compassion.”

I love that Zippy’s mom taught her to come up with her own logical answers to her questions.

The author makes great comparisons all throughout the book that sound totally nonsensical – unless you’re a child. For example, Zippy wanted to tear the page out of a poetry book because the poem bothered her but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. “The book was so clean and white, and the letters were so perfectly black and defenseless; it would have been like tearing the ears off a kitten.” Isn’t that so vivid?!?

One last thing that struck me about this book (I could go on, but this post is too long already) is how Kimmel writes as though she’s a 7 year old talking about what happened at school that day. For example, she hears someone crying and wants to figure out what’s going on. “I stopped and looked around for a spy object, but all I could find was a stack of empty yogurt containers, so I used one of those as a listening cup.” She doesn’t bother to define a spy object or why she needed one because – isn’t it obvious? That’s exactly how children behave; they just talk and everything makes complete sense to them even though nobody else has any idea what they’re talking about.

I haven’t enjoyed a book quite in the same way I enjoyed this one ever before in my life. I wish all memoirs were as outstanding as this one. You really should read it.

Other favorite passages from the book:

Pg. 238 – In addition to all the humiliations I was heir to, when Mom made me a dress that I would have rather eaten hominy than wear, I was forced to try it on while it still had pins in it. Whoever thought of such a thing? In a normal world, if I had said to my mom that I was just going to slip on these jeans and this T-shirt, which P.S. was full of straight pins, she would have felt my head for a fever.

Pg. 246 – The paper was so thin the letters of one page showed up through another, and when the book was closed the pages formed a solid band of gold so delicate and beautiful it would have made a pirate weep.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Bethany April 28, 2008 at 11:08 am

I found one “laugh out loud” moment after another in this book… I agree with you whole-heartedly!

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